Snake in a car? Missing python found three kilometres from where it went missing

The ball python that was on the loose for six weeks in Victoria and captured nearly four kilometres from where it escaped its owner’s backpack likely hitched a ride in a vehicle, says Victoria’s animal control officer.

“Snakes just don’t travel that distance,” Ian Fraser said. “It probably slithered into a a car and hitched the ride.”

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Victoria police were called Wednesday to a Richardson Street residence, where an officer recovered the non-venomous reptile from beneath a vehicle. It was taken to a veterinarian for an overnight checkup and delivered to Victoria Animal Control Services on Thursday morning.

Fraser noted the snake was in good health and was molting some of its skin.

He expects to reunite the snake with its owner today.

Fraser said no charges are expected to be laid and the owner will get off with a “verbal warning” about having control of animals.

Fraser’s hitching-hiking theory is based on another recent case. He said a person was driving a car in Victoria last year when a snake suddenly emerged from the dashboard and started wrapping itself around the steering column.

The person reacted with alarm, quickly exited the vehicle and called animal control.

Fraser searched the entire car and set traps to catch the snake, but it slipped away.

“The driver’s reaction scared the snake so much it disappeared back into the dashboard,” he said. “We never found it.”

It’s not known what kind of snake it was.

Fraser said it’s surprising the missing ball python was found so far from where it was lost. “But snakes can get into just about anything.”

The missing snake sent the city into a bit of a tizzy when police issued an alert last week.

The python had actually disappeared from the 200 block of Bay Street near the Galloping Goose trail on July 2, but wasn’t reported missing until Aug. 4.

It was spotted in the 1100 block of Richardson Street just before 6 p.m. Wednesday.

“A patrol officer who is familiar with snakes took the snake into custody without incident,” police said.

The long distance it covered had many wondering if the snake at some point slithered past them or cut through their yard or business unnoticed.

Officials believe the snake would have been spotted at some point had it made it across town on its own. It would have had to cross either the Bay Street or Johnson Street bridge and go through busy industrial, retail and residential areas to end up in Fairfield.

The non-venomous snake was not considered dangerous, but police warned it can bite if feeling threatened.

Fraser said ball pythons, like all cold-blooded reptiles, need to warm themselves and often show up on pieces of pavement or concrete that absorb heat.

He captured a similar snake several years ago near the Johnson Street Bridge, not far from its escape location, when it slithered onto a rock to warm itself.

Fraser said it’s likely the latest escaped snake fed on mice while on the lam. He said constrictor snakes kill their prey by squeezing. This particular snake, judging by its size, likely didn’t present any threat to pets or people.

The ball constrictor is the smallest of the African pythons, growing to a maximum length of about six feet. The name refers to its tendency to curl into a ball when frightened.

dkloster@timescolonist.com

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